Still strong performance by Canada and BC in latest international assessment? Check out what Janet Steffenhagen has to say, or read the report from StatsCan, Measuring Up: Canadian Results of the OECD PISA. Here's how I see it:
Interesting and predictable! For an underfunded and under-resourced system, despite the rhetoric that incited the system to strive to become -- remember this? -- the "most literate jurisdiction in North America," it should come as little surprise that the results for reading have declined.
26% of BC's teacher-librarians have disappeared since the Liberal government’s stripping of contract language that ensured every school had a teacher-librarian and since the inception of funding and programs to address this lofty Literacy goal. Some might consider it to have been cheaply “spun” grandstanding and political opportunism of the worst kind, given that we were at the time already a highly literate province for 15 year-olds, closely vying for that title of most literate with Alberta.
It comes as little surprise to us in school libraries that the results for PISA 2009 tests of 15-year olds for reading have fallen here in BC; so have the services of teacher-librarians and thus the capacity of strong school library programs to support reading and inquiry. Dr Ken Haycock said this would happen in his work Crisis in Canada's School Libraries (2003); it is what happened in the US, most notably in California. This same refrain is echoed by Stephen Krashen, an acknowledged expert on the value of the kind of free voluntary reading (FVR) that is enabled by school libraries and by children having access to qualified school librarians, adequate resources, and opportunities to read. School libraries in some BC school districts are now being staffed by clerks, technicians, parent volunteers, or administrators, or they are closed for some or all of the time.
Provincial funding has been directed to making the case for what some have identified as an “imported” educational crisis in Literacy and Numeracy. John Ralston Saul, Dave Bouchard, and Andy Hargreaves have reminded us of this folly, and yet, educational direction in Canada is still, amazingly, tied to American initiatives. The public's confidence in its education system, fed by the government’s unrelenting and narrowly focused attacks, has simultaneously been eroded.
Yes, interesting and quite predictable. It is, by the way, Krashen who is best known for his finding that “reading improves with reading”! And supporting school libraries as hubs of reading and learning in our schools is so much easier a case to make than continuing on with FSAs and provincial exams, and making school districts accountable for Literacy and Numeracy. Yes, we can see the results of this government's ignoring the importance of school library programs and its failing to invest in the resources, technology, and qualified staffing that engage students with reading.